A MOTHER was jailed for 16 years yesterday after killing her three children in a "ghastly and grotesque" act of violence.

Theresa Riggi, 47, stabbed to death eight-year-old twins, Austin and Luke, and Cecilia, aged five, because she feared losing them in a bitter custody battle.

Judge Lord Bracadale told her yesterday: "It is clear any degree of responsibility for such ghastly and grotesque acts must be visited with a lengthy sentence.

"The father of the children and the wider family are utterly bereft. And you, who had a genuine but abnormal and possessive love of your children, have lost them. The number and nature of the stab wounds is indicative of a truly disturbing degree of violence."

Riggi, who had wept repeatedly throughout proceedings, then cried: "No, no!"

Outside the High Court, Glasgow, a statement was read on behalf of her estranged husband Pasquale Riggi, 46, who was wearing three different coloured ribbons to represent his children.

It said: "The horrific manner in which my children died will leave an indelible mark on the rest of my life. As a father, my natural instincts were geared towards ­safeguarding my children from the dangers of this world. It pains me to the core that I was unable to protect them from the selfish, brutal and murderous acts that ended their lives so unfairly.

"They are in my thoughts when I wake in the morning and before I go to sleep. They were such wonderful, happy children."

The court heard Riggi, described as ­paranoid and hysterical, became more possessive of the children when her husband began divorce proceedings.

Two days before the killings last August, Riggi accused Pasquale – a Shell engineer from Colorado but now living in Aberdeen – of being in collusion with their solicitors. She asked him on the phone if he would take the children away.

On being told that she "left him no choice", Riggi replied: "Say goodbye then."

The bodies of the three children, who each had eight stab wounds, were found after a gas blast at their Edinburgh home.

Riggi, originally from California, also had stab wounds and was injured after plunging from a balcony in a suicide attempt. Her fall was broken by a neighbour.

Defending, Donald Findlay QC said Riggi had suffered a "brief psychotic episode" brought on by the thought of losing her children. She was "tortured" every day by what she had done and remained "resentful" that someone saved her life.

Riggi was initially charged with murder but admitted three lesser charges of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished ­responsibility.